Surnames and Family Research Forum Archive
Re: Why so many mistakes?
In Response To: Why so many mistakes? ()
I'm sure someone will post a more eloquent response than I, but here are my thoughts.
One reason that there are errors in age comes from many, particulary slaves not knowing exactly when they were born (there is a family story about one of my ancestor's--it is said that she would say something along the lines of "I was born during the big storm that hit that year").
Another reason that ages may not stay consistant with census information may come from the person who answered the census taker's questions. If a child or other relative answered, they may not know exactly and try to come as close as they could.
There is also the fact that some folks fudged things (I've got folks that said they were widowed when the spouse or ex-spouse lived across town). When looking at a document, ask yourself if there was any way that the person giving the information would benefit if something was fudged. I recently read an article where a woman was trying to figure out why one of her grandmother's wedding date was wrong in a pension application. Come to find out, the woman wouldn't have qualified for the pension if she'd given the correct year of her marriage so she fudged it by a year or two.
In regard to the question of the ethinc grouping, there was a great thread on this board about that a while back. More often than not, I believe, it lied in the eye of the beholder. If the census taker (or person filling out the form) thought a person "looked" something, that is what s/he put down on the form.
As you eluded to, these things can present challenges. Yet, as you mentioned, there is a wonderful joy when you learn something new.
Best wishes in your research